A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Poor concentration: Poverty reduces brainpower needed for navigating other areas of life

Poor concentration: Poverty reduces brainpower needed for navigating other areas of life

One of the "best practices" setup tasks on my getting ready for Tuesday list in preparation for the first day of school involves listing "books" that I am reading. A non-conformist, rather than simply listing hardcopy or ebooks, I view this requirement from school administration as an opportunity to communicate my core belief to incoming 6th graders that the purpose of literacy, or mathematics for that matter, is to enable people to participate in a conversation that spans from the beginning or recorded history to today. Reading, or doing mathematics for that matter, in my view, is not a one way street with knowledge coming down from a mountaintop, with the reader merely a passive consumer of information. Rather, I have long viewed reading as a 2-way communication process in which the reader becomes, ideally, an equal participant, fully capable of responding, and in fact, having a duty to respond or not respond to what an author has been communicated. The decision to respond or not respond and to what degree should be fully conscious decisions on the part of the reader, through a filtering process.

Having been exposed to the benefits of adaptive technology through my training as a special educator, I no longer totally mentally segregate reading, or the consumption of information paper or ebooks, from audiobooks to which I can listen repeatedly on my Smart Phone. As I plan my response to this request from administration, I envision using Mind Mapping software and including book covers on my "What I am reading" poster, along with brief attractive blurbs intended to draw out a response from students, and hopefully attract students to want to become readers.

One of the categories I plan to include on my poster under an email icon will be items that my dad sends me that have found his desktop via his global network. The link between poverty and education is something that every educator in a high poverty school deals with on a daily basis. Ironically, as was the case when I got my first teaching opportunity in 2007, high poverty schools is often where opportunities open up for the teachers least equipped to dealing with cognitive problems associated with poverty, not least of which, include speech and language delays, which I suspect are rooted in the lack of daily talk between young working mothers and their infants, too often single mothers themselves just struggling to survive. The cumulative affect known as the "Matthew Effect," i.e., the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, is a root cause of the performance gap we find on state level testing, as well as nationally, and is well-documented.

But now is not the time. I need to take care of me so that I can take care of others. Time to hit the gym for the first time since last Sunday. I shut down my classroom at 10pm last night, after not being able to sleep and waking up at 1am to prepare for Day 1 and arriving at 8am for training on setting up my gradebook. I had no competition for the copier at 7pm and copied all the curriculum materials as well as classroom management documents provided to me by my awesome team! Truly, in different schools, I have not thrived professionally, whereas in Dr.P's school, my 6th grade Administrator, my Special Education Chair, they seem to get me. To the gym I go, then to dinner to celebrate finally getting a job.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Free Interactive Body Maps -- If this doesn't wow students, I don't know what will!

Link to Interactive Body Map

tracy. rose
3D Models of The Human Body: Interactive Online Tool 
08/22/2013 04:38 PM 


Healthline.com recently launched a free interactive "Human Body Maps" tool your readers may be interested in. You can find it at: http://www.healthline.com/human-body-maps

It would be much appreciated if you could include this tool on http://guest.portaportal.com/dkurland2006 and / or share with friends and followers. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you in advance.

Warm Regards,


Twitter: @healthline.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/healthlinenetworks
Flattering! Will certainly add! I wonder if there is a widget that will allow people to access from the sidebar on my blog???

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Grandma's Revenge

"Perhaps more than any authority on human behavior, [Victor] Frankl's knowledge is first-hand and springs from objective evaluations of destitute humans living with the daily probability of death. These experiences enabled him to make a sharp departure from the theories of Sigmund Freud. For example, Freud taught that if humans were deprived of food, their behavior would become more and more uniform as they resorted to their level of their basic "animal like instincts. But Frankl states, 'In the concentration camps we witnessed to the contrary: we saw how, faced with the identical situation, one man degenerated while another attained virtual saintliness.'" - Dr. Denis Waitley, " The Psychology of Winning
Attending the celebration of my Obachan's 100th birthday party in San Francisco was a life shaping event for me, my son Joseph, and everybody who attended. The last time I was in San Francisco was 20 years ago at my Obachan's 80th birthday party in 1993, just before I met my wife Karen, just before our family learned that my father had colon cancer, that his cancer had spread to his lymph nodes and he was given just 5 years to live. I remember her being presented with 80 cranes, a symbol of long life.

In preparation for my opportunity to speak, 20 years ago, I first learned of the stormy ride my mom took with my obachan took on a boat from the Tsuchitani homestead on the island of Iwaishima, in Yamaguchi Ken, to Fukuoka, on the island of Kyushu, in search of work, a few months after my mom's family first arrived in Japan on a military transport ship, and her fears as a 12-year old that the boat might sink. I had studied difficulties my mom had overcome, but unfamiliar with the term gaman, and how it has defined my Obachan's life, I harbored considerable anger about everything my otosan had lost, which I wrote about in Rising Son in the West, the seed of what I hoped would become a book, but which I abandoned at age 19, while a student in Dorothy Brown's class on 20th century American history, fearing my anger about the unfairness of it all would consume me, and decided to research what I considered more positive things that my dad had been doing.

I first learned about gaman when I visited The Art of Gaman, an exhibit at the Renwick, a few years ago. I learned more about gaman earlier this. summer, thanks to Jan Morrill's Red Kimono, which dramatizes the concept through the eyes of a small girl and her teen age brother, who find themselves in internment camps, and a young African American, who finds himself in jail, after he is caught up in a tsunami of hatred of Japanese Americans, immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Joe and I had been in conflict all summer. At 15, Joe had a hard time understanding the depths of my hatred toward the X-box Live game, Halo, and the  hours upon hours I felt he was wasting on what I considered a brain deadening game, totally disconnected from real goals, that might get him somewhere in life. Joe's experience has been only with me struggling professionally and economically, ever since I left Allied Plywood in February 2002, when he was 4 years old, without much of a plan. Determined to go well beyond my comfort zone, I had no idea about the levels of discomfort I would experience, such as when I tried to read James and the Giant Peach to my first class of 3rd graders, a class with the vast majority of the class 2nd language learners, and got zero response. Welcome to teaching!

Until Joe traveled with me, my sister Dawn, and her husband Rowland, and stayed in a beautiful house in Daly City, and delivered a message to all the attendees at my Obachan's 100th birthday party, Joe had difficulty understanding why I had always been so brutally honest, and held him to such a high standard. He had become resistant, partly because he knew how much his resistance to taking care of his business by finishing Lord of the Flies, lifting weights in preparation for tryouts, and practicing his hitting frustrated me. In the Lord of the Flies, Golding chillingly dramatizes Freud's erroneous view that people revert to a primal baseline, when separated from society. Knowing what I know, I wanted for Joe to begin to develop a little more depth. Being exposed to 4 generations of family and hearing the stories, I noticed a difference in Joe's self-motivation, which as a parent and teacher, is truly the gold standard.

20 years ago

In 1993, I was working in the credit department at Allied Plywood, a 100% employee owned company, and had come to expect $16,000 year-end annual bonuses. I had recently helped save the company hundreds of thousands of dollars on a Virginia Sales Tax audit, working under the direction of Larry Richards. Larry and I politely challenged every finding of the auditor, customer by customer. Ultimately, Larry and I turned a handsome profit for our company on the sales tax audit, after our contention that all of our write-offs should be credited back to the auditor's spreadsheet using the same formula the state was using to penalize us, was upheld.

Working an ingenious plan to increase our annual sales to from $50 million to $100 million overnight, Bob Shaw had established Atlantic Forest Products under the shadowy AWood umbrella.We were secretly brokering railcars and truckloads to all of our much larger competitors including Lowes and every other lumber yard in the area, which caused our credit lines to balloon, our banker to call every day to complain, and a spike in profitability which was fueling our expansion into Atlanta and Charlotte. Bob's clever ruse was only discovered when Mike P, an ex-Georgia Pacific salesman, sent a fax to Fairfax Lumber, which caused quite a ripple. The fax machine had been moved to Baltimore from our main branch in Alexandria. The header still read, "Allied Plywood." When called into the offices of Fairfax Lumber for an explanation, Mike P quickly came up with the story that he had bought the fax from one of his customers.

20 years ago, I was living in a townhouse on Buttercup Ct., which I owned in partnership with my brother, my uncle Isamu, and his friend Soon. We rented out two rooms in the upstairs. My room in the downstairs had a fireplace with a blower unit. I was proud of my solid mahogany mantle, and how, with the help of my buddy Steve we had hidden its anchors, rated at over 2,000 lbs. per anchor, as well as the counter top with a bullnose a carpenter on disability from Smoot had installed over my custom built bookcase, all cut from the same 12/4 mahogany board, originally about 20" wide and 20' long, which I had pulled myself when working for Austin Hardwoods. My 5.0 Mustang felt rumbled home every night, music blasting. My ESOP retirement account seemed like a certainty.

Two Weeks Ago

20 years later, I was preparing to board flight 77 on Virgin Atlantic, a non-stop flight from Dulles to San Francisco, where I would continue to nag my son Joseph to finish Lord of the Flies, which he has had all summer to read, and still needs to annotate for his honor's English class. On the flight, I challenged Joe that I would be finished with the audiobook version, read by William Golding, before the plane touched down.

The last time I had been on a plane was on my honeymoon to Swept Away in Negril, Jamaica (December, 1995). Going through TSA for the first time, I felt a little like Rip Van Winkle. Had my dad not asked beforehand whether I had read the instructions for carry on luggage on Virgin America's website, I would have been totally unaware of the 3-1-1 rule, the need to pack any loose carry-on luggage in plastic bags for easy screening, and the advantage of packing gels and liquids in my checked luggage.

Joe's childhood has been largely defined by 9-11, which was largely why I was so appreciative of the airline industry's remarkably efficient response to 9-11, considering the CNN news reports about a series of drone attacks to disrupt terrorist cells in Yemen, and a terrorism alert, which flashed on Virgin's inflight media screens, along with news about Washington's first preseason football game, as I flipped through channels. This was Joe's first flight. Flying Virgin America, Joe knew we were in good hands. When we descended in total fog for a blind landing, I thanked God that we had such a professional pilot, and felt really smart about our decision to fly Virgin America.

In preparation for my opportunity to speak at my Obachan's 100th birthday, about a month ago, my mom had filled in additional details, as I sought to compare impressions of post-war Japan described in Donald Richie's Japan Journals with her recollections of what it was like to arrive in Japan after departing from Tule Lake. I brought with me a map of Japan, so that I could use it as a prop, and publicly ask my Obachan, in front of all the attendees, to help me fill in details about where and when she went in Japan, hoping to to get her to open up to me, so that I could visit Japan within the next 10 years, and write more richly about her experiences. Never did get much of an opportunity to speak with her! Being present seemed good enough.

Anger at age 19

At age 19, racism became personal.

Joe's generation does not understand the depths of racism, the evils of Social Darwinism, and the power of bad ideas. Ultimately, Grandma got her revenge. She was able to feel the love of 3 generations at Green Hills Country Club in San Bruno. Indeed, "revenge is sweet," and "revenge is a dish that is best served cold."

A thousand cranes


Tomorrow, I will take a cash advance from Discover to pay back the remaining $12,000 that I had rolled into an IRA, but had withdrawn so that I could continue to pay my share of the bills, so that I can avoid yet another 30% tax penalty. Resigned to the probability that I would not be able to afford the trip, I had told everybody in my family for months that, since I had no job, I probably wouldd not attend. Thanks to Dr. P, I was willing to take a major leap of faith, with the implicit promise that I would have a job waiting for me when I got back home. Time to get serious about becoming a more professional teacher!

Added Suspense

"Having a healthy and mature attitude about the past can make a major difference in anyone's life. One of the best ways to approach the past is to use it as a school, not as a weapon. We must not beat ourselves to death with past mistakes, faults, failures, and losses." - Jim Rohn, The Five Major Pieces to the Life Puzzle.
 I have long suspected that some sort of Human Resources (HR) flag was preventing me from getting teaching opportunities whenever I submitted an application. Immediately after grad school, I spent 2 hours with the Director of the Lab School, only to get beaten down by another person when invited to the second interview. Last summer, I was confronted by an openly hostile administrator who demanded to see my prior evaluations from my first year of teaching. Frankly, I was not at all impressed the school she was representing and rationalized that I would not have been a good fit there. Good riddance!

Dr. P sort of confirmed my suspicion when I met with him Monday, thinking I was going there to sign a contract, only to be confronted with questions about what had happened in my first two teaching engagements (2007-2008, and 2008-2009). Having not signed a contract, feeling in my gut something might happen, I had dressed in suit and tie, put on my game face, and took time to review my interview prep notes before arriving.

After we exchanged pleasantries, Monday morning at 9:00 am, Dr. P told me that he was upset because he felt that I had not been totally upfront with him about my struggles as a new teacher. I looked him in the eye and calmly tried to reassure him that I had made no effort to hide anything. I explained to him how I had used these experiences to make me a better teacher, which is exactly what I had written in my revised cover letter. My explanation was congruent with what Dr. P had discussed with the principal with whom I worked as a 3rd grade teacher, and the assistant principal with whom I worked as a 4th grade teacher. Verbally, Dr. P agreed to submit a recommendation to HR for a 1 year contract, instead of the 3 year contract he was originally planning to offer me. He agreed to chalk up my perceived lack of forthrightness as a "learning experience" ...

If for some reason I am not offered the contract, that's it -- I won't be able to take it anymore! If denied once again, I will simply chalk it up to experience and change direction, submit my application to Home Depot, where I will take whatever position I can get, whatever schedule, nights and weekends, whatever ...

As somebody who was never been anointed as a "great teacher" until recently, except when my Old Dominion University (ODU) evaluator recommended me for initial licensure in 2007, having witnessed my performances when I was in a state of peak "flow," with students responding to me, not when I was floundering, which happened when I became overwhelmed, particularly when certain administrators dropped in, set up a laptop, and began to tap-tap on their keyboards with my every move, how others in the teaching profession have viewed me has always been divided between those who have championed me and those who I felt had me square in their sights, as they looked for every possible way to disqualify me as unfit for the teaching profession. HR Professionals, protecting their organizations from "the Dance of the Lemons," perhaps had me flagged as a risky candidate. Highly likely!

Dr. P, with 28 years of experience, did his due diligence. To my benefit, more recently, from a performance standpoint, "the numbers speak for themselves." In the small sample size that Dr. P was able to observe, clearly I was not the same "greenhorn" I was 5 years ago.

The call from HR just came, and I have just accepted a 1 year contract. I can now change my Linked In Profile from "Substitute Teacher" to "Teacher." God's delays are not God's denials.

Joe, my son, was the first person with whom I shared the news. Joe was "relieved," not happy. Then, I called Karen. She suggested that I think about teaching summer school.

In a few minutes, when I am finished with my blog post, I will call Mom in California. She is going to cry.

The Discrepancy Model is an old, perhaps outdated, way of evaluating who might be eligible for services because of a "Learning Disability." According to the model, a discrepancy between capacity and performance is an important clue that might indicate a Learning Disability. In my case, I suspect what my particular learning disability, if professionally diagnosed, might be categorized as "Other Health Impaired" (OHI), which is generally how students with ADD are able to qualify for Special Education services. ADD is a disability that is typically comorbid with other conditions, but generally these comorbid conditions cluster around developmental difficulties with executive function, or disorders of the prefrontal cortex, the brain's center for planning and decision making. A diagnosis of ADD seems consistent with my lifelong "high-low" pattern of star performances and flameouts, which some non-clinical family members have "diagnosed," in efforts to be helpful, "bi-polar disorder," a condition that is, in fact, often comorbid with ADD. As a teacher of students formally diagnosed with Learning Disabilities, and a co-teacher in general education inclusion classrooms, I can empathize with students who have to come to grips with loved ones frequently telling them there is something wrong with them, when ADD for them is a normal state.

One explanation might be that my Amygdala, the brain's emotional center, which has primary responsibility for new memory formation, is particularly sensitive to emotional cues. Perhaps socially learned biases to always "tough it out" have led me to habitually disregard warning signs such as elevated blood pressure, shoulder tension, and reduced processing speed. I have tended to be a bit rigid and somewhat resistant to making needed adjustments such as taking care of my blood sugar, getting necessary rest, controlling my facial expressions, and modulating my tone, expression, and habitual exuberance. Self monitoring has never come naturally to me, as I have always preferred spontaneity

Negative feedback, I have learned, can be a positive thing. One year ago, I accepted Dr. Prinz's feedback that my blood results indicated a marker for prolonged elevated sugar, i.e., diabetes. In response, I began making changes to my diet and exercise habits. Although I have regained 10 of the 20 pounds I originally lost, and still need to lose an additional 20 pounds, the results of the blood test I took a few weeks ago showed considerable improvement, especially the marker for prolonged elevated sugar. While I have not yet fully controlled my diabetes, my numbers are moving in the right direction, although I now realize that I am going to need to consult with a nutritionist, since the roots of my dietary problems are highly complex, and I have come to the realization that in this case I need professional help. Dr. Prinz suggested that I might try going back to a more "interval style" of training, which was working for me, so I have begun to adjust my workout routine to elevate my heart rate.

Mom called. She did not cry.

I shook hands with Dr. P and he walked me over to his secretary to ask whether she had mailed me the new teacher orientation letter. Mrs. H gave Dr. P a knowing look as she removed the letter from her pendaflex. I resolved to use questions about my past performance as fuel for my future performance. "You understand my drive," I promised Dr. P as we were shaking hands, and resolved to become highly focused on my professional responsibilities.
"Results are the best measurement of human progress. Not conversation. Not explanation. Not justification. Results! And if our results are less than our potential suggests that they should be, then we must strive to become more today than we were the day before. The greatest rewards are always reserved for those who bring great value to themselves and the world around them as a result of whom and what they have become." - Jim Rohn, The Five Major Pieces to the Life Puzzle.

  • Handle my business
  • Exceed expectations
  • Prove to Dr. P that he made the right choice in believing in me when no one else would give me a chance
  • Use adversity as motivation
  • Leverage past adversity as a teaching tool

Thursday, August 15, 2013

In Response to Howard Zinn

Here's a link to a critique of Howard Zinn which appeared recently in the Wall Street Journal:

My dad wrote the following:

David Bobb's article on the growing impact of Howard Zinn should challenge all supporters of the Just Third Way. Zinn's book has sold over 2.2 million copies, 20,000 teachers are now teaching his vision of Economic Justice and several influential universities have embraced his version of Social Justice, and big name entertainers are peddling Zinn's critique of America. Any thoughts? Should our supporters be writing David Bobb at the Hillsdale College Kirby Center in Washington, D.C.?

Here's my response:

Zinn is, evidently, profiting handsomely from his one-sided and incomplete historical analysis. So too is Hollywood from the victimization model of history.

I recently listened to an audio version of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, a Pulitzer Prize winning book, written largely in response to a question raised by an aboriginal political leader, who asked the author to help him understand why his people were so powerless in relation to the West. Written from an evolutionary perspective, in Guns, Germs, and Steel, Diamond broadly explores, analyzes, and outlines a series of technological advantages, as well as secondary consequences, which made it possible for elites like Zinn to have the leisure time needed to foment Anti-American sentiment through Hollywood image-making mass production, while all the poor defenseless victims from less developed nations like the aboriginal political leader were struggling with subsistence issues. Perhaps Zinn wants to reset evolution and send the vast majority of Americans back to the stone ages, where we can all live together as happy, far skinnier hunters and gatherers, and munch on berries.

As my dad pointed out to me, unfortunately, millions of people seem to be blindly accepting Zinn's analysis, which reminds me of how hard I started laughing when I realized how the masses, including my 15 year old son Joseph, blindly accepted the myth of Megalodon, possibly because the fiction was portrayed as fact on the Discovery Channel during Shark Week. I tend to agree with dad's assessment that students are leaving schools without the critical thinking skills needed to sort out fact from fiction, including people as brilliant as Matt Damon, my favorite actor.

Despite Zinn's impressive book sales, there are many statistics out there which indicate that few people ever get past the Introduction of the books that they are buying. If smart people like Matt Damon actually took the time to read Zinn's incomplete and flawed analysis, then were presented with a superior analysis and clear picture of what a just society might look like through a design science revolution, I have little doubt that all of the misguided people being led astray by Zinn would be fully capable of seeing the errors in their thinking, and as a result might make better choices, resulting in far better outcomes for everybody, far less guilt, and move everyone a little closer to a more just society.

Guest Blogger - Biography of Masako Tsuchitani

A Biographical Sketch of My Grandma
(Dawn K. Brohawn, 8/10/13)

My grandmother Masako’s life is a story of persistence and courage in the face of hardship. Born a nissei (second generation Japanese-American) in Alameda, California in 1913, Masako Otsuka married a successful Japanese businessman (Yunosuke Tsuchitani), with whom she raised three children in California. A celebrated beauty, doted upon by her mother and older sister Satsuki (who was later nicknamed “Pe Pe”), Masako lived a comfortable life.

When World War II broke out, Masako’s husband (a foreign national) was taken without warning from their home in the middle of the night by government “men in black suits.” He was sent to an internship camp in North Dakota and later was transferred to a prisoner-of-war camp in New Mexico.

Two weeks following Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, Masako and the couple’s young children (6-year-old Mariko, 3-year-old Isamu and 5-month-old Ken) found themselves in the horse stables of Tanforan Racetrack, soon to be sent to the Topaz internment camp. Two years passed before Masako’s husband was reunited with his family at Topaz.  They were all subsequently relocated to Tule Lake, California.

By the time the war ended, the family had lost their home, their possessions, and Yunosuke’s businesses. Disillusioned with their treatment by the U.S. government, and because her husband was not allowed to return to California where he had conducted his businesses with his partners prior to the war, Masako, her husband and children decided to move to Japan. (Ironically, on the day of their departure, Yunosuke received a notice from the U.S. government allowing him to return to California.)

Following the long voyage to Japan, taking the few possessions they were permitted, the family arrived at the port of Yokosuka. For three days they travelled south in a packed train to Fukuoka, and then walked several miles with their luggage across rice fields to the country home of Masako’s oldest sister, Shizue. Falling asleep exhausted on tatami in the entrance area of the house, they awoke to find that the shoes and other possessions they were still wearing had been stolen off them as they slept.

In January 1946 conditions in post-war Japan were harsh. The family was forced to move from place to place, relying on the kindness of relatives and others willing to put them up for a few months at a time. Jobs were scarce, but Masako, who was bilingual, was able to find work while her husband took care of the children. Yunosuke later found work as a houseboy for an American officer, and eventually as a translator for a Japanese construction company. When he suffered a massive stroke, Masako, who herself suffered from life-threatening asthma, had to support her husband and two of their children. (By that time Mariko had traveled back by herself to the U.S. where she attended the University of Nebraska.)

With her fluency in English, she soon found work at an American Air Force base in Fukuoka. That was where Masako first came in contact over the phone with my father, Lt. Norman Kurlansky, who commanded two radar bases in southern-most Japan.

How my mother, Masako’s daughter Mariko, met my father several years later in Lincoln, Nebraska, got married and helped to bring incrementally the Tsuchitani family back to the United States, is another story.

At age 50, Masako returned with Yunosuke to the U.S., where they lived for several months at Norm and Marie’s small home in Alexandria, Virginia.  Leaving her husband for a few months with Norm, Marie and their three children, she returned to San Francisco to be near Ken, who had located in San Francisco.  She immediately found a job because of her excellent secretarial skills. Shortly after, she was joined by her husband, and they lived for a time with her son Ken and his new bride, Akiko.

Masako was later hired by a Japanese electronics firm, where she worked for ten years while she continued to care for her husband, who passed away in a nursing home in 1974. Up until her late 80’s, Masako traveled regularly by herself to the East Coast to visit with her son Isamu’s and daughter Mariko’s families.

Many years have passed. Now the matriarch of her family, Masako has three children, 8 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren. She has survived numerous serious illnesses, surgeries and life challenges that would have overcome most people. Today this “young centenarian,” with the help of visiting caregivers, is able to live independently in her own apartment, where she walks the steep streets of San Francisco with her walker, reads her Japanese and English language newspapers cover-to-cover, creates beautiful pressed flower art, stays active in her spiritual group, is a rabid and knowledgeable baseball fan, and serves as an inspiration to all her family and friends.

Masako’s life is a journey of dislocation after dislocation after dislocation. But it is also a story of persistence, courage, and how the kindness, generosity and friendship of many people can help us both bear the hardships we encounter and appreciate life’s beauty.

Thank you all for being such a part of Masako’s long life.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Wagging a wag

Link to Mariam Kurtzig Freedman article in the Wall Street Journal

Link to Mariam Kurtzig Freedman ariticle in The  Atlantic.

As a "new" special education teacher, it makes no sense for somebody as low on the totem pole like me to pick a fight with somebody far more established, with far better credentials than I have. I could never win such a fight with a national "authority."

Plus, I have much better things to do, such as preparing to apply research-based Universal Design for Learning (UDL) methods for making the curriculum more accessible to every student in the classroom, whether on my caseload or not. Dr. P's school, where I will start in a few weeks, has a highly effective collaborative teaching model, with one of the highest reduced lunch populations, yet Dr. P's school is getting it done on par with some of the wealthiest schools in the area. Without my experience with Special Education methods, I would have likely failed in my takeover of a general education class, and would probably be starting at a local Home Depot rather than starting at Dr. P's school. Not that I have anything against working for Home Depot and could see myself working there during holidays and summers in order to pay off all the debt I have incurred in my 10 years in education. I have nothing wrong with earning a wage in an effort to pay the bills.

Not that I have a problem with anyone raising questions about the legal basis for Special Education, cost versus benefits analysis, and or an informed person raising questions whether structural changes to IDEA might be sorely needed. Indeed, questions raised by Ms. Freedman, particularly questions about costs versus benefits of special education, vis-a-vis general education students are on point, and well worth discussing. I am a little bothered, however, that so many people hold themselves as "authorities" on special education without ever having actually set foot in any of these classrooms. When lawyers and politicians propose what seem to me to be overly simplistic solutions about how to fix education without any direct knowledge of in-classroom challenges, I am led to wonder about questions of secondary gain. Just me.

Efficiency, cost considerations, and accountability are central to the historic debate on how to interpret the "Least Restrictive Environment" (LRE).  At Dr. Thompson's suggestion, when I was in her course on Special Education Law, I researched the LRE thoroughly. I posted my research on this topic to my blog, so if any reader wants to see this research, enter LRE into the search box and the article should appear.

Ms. Freedman observes that Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and No Child Left Behind (NCLB) are working at cross purposes, to which I would agree wholeheartedly. My argument was that the idea of a Fair and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), which underpins IDEA, is more in line with constitutional traditions than group accountability, a concept that underpins NCLB. All the sub-class tracking that occurs for accountability purposes, is a product of NCLB, which is, therefore, the law which deserves greater scrutiny. NCLB mandates for penalizing schools that do not meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) have led to tremendous hand-wringing as key subgroups, including students with learning disabilities, have not responded to ineffective teaching methods, such as "teaching to the test."

Not that I have a problem with the concept of accountability, and feel that it is appropriate for a teacher to assume responsibility for custom fitting instruction to meeting the needs of every child in the classroom, but group accountability to some subjective standard imposed by lawyers and politicians, whose only interests might be to gain reelection, or line their own pockets, is another matter. Moreover, I question the tilt away from preserving "equal access," i.e., FAPE, the central concept underlying IDEA, to group accountability, the central concept underpinning No Child Left Behind.

Regarding the shift away from special education to general education Ms. Freedman proposed in her Atlantic article, the concept of "Least Restrictive Environment" (LRE) was never intended to eliminate self-contained classes, just make general education classes more accessible to students with learning disabilities. Given the well-documented" over-representation of minorities in special education, I worry that Ms. Freedman's solution is, in practice, nothing but a subtle form of gerrymandering intended to weed under performing, high cost minorities out of general education classrooms, thereby generating better performance numbers for school districts, at the expense of minority students, to the profit of lawyers and educational consultants who are thus, better able to game the numbers.

Regarding the paperwork bottleneck, wah! The paperwork is in place for the protection of individuals. Given the advent of online Individualized Education Plans (IEP), technology is overcoming many of the paperwork inefficiencies Ms. Freedman complains about. In other words, I don't feel her information on excessive paperwork is totally up to date.

Regarding the "wait to fail" model for Special Education to which Ms. Freedman complains about, a 3-tier process known as Response to Intervention (RTI) is incorporated into special education law, making the diagnosis of a learning disability increasingly a last resort, is increasingly becoming the norm. Her criticism that Special Education is a "wait to fail" proposition is, therefore, outdated.

The roots to difficulties with reading and math are deep, complicated, and fairly well researched, although there exists a substantial gap in research to practice. If the focus of the discussion is on how to apply all that research to make learning accessible to all, I think everybody can benefit.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

An open letter to in reponse to Peter Buffett

Here is a link to an interview of Peter Buffett after his recent Op-Ed contribution to the New York Times:
August 3, 2013
Dear Mr. Peter Buffett,

You and I share much in common, and I would greatly enjoy breaking bread with you to discuss what to do about our love and concerns about the future of America, which we share. As the child of a stalwart citizen servant-leader of “the greatest generation,” you share the same sense of frustration with knowledge of what we as fellow Americans can accomplish, and intimate knowledge that we as Americans are not getting it done. Given the existential threats looming over Americans like the sword of Damocles, which you and I both understand, and more troubling, threats to our existence that we do not fully understand, please accept my small contribution to the Einsteinian possibility question you have submitted in the New York Times to every American citizen, and by extension, to every citizen of our planet, a possibility question as profound as the archetypal children’s story Rock Soup: how will we make America 2.0, and more pointedly, what will our fellow Americans contribute to the pot?

Your metaphor of America 1.0 and call for America 2.0 is a metaphor that can unite every American who shares the same love of our beloved platform, upon which beautiful structures have been constructed, which has generated historically unprecedented accumulations of fortune, and knowledge that our beloved tool seems unsuited in many ways to 21st century challenges as presently constructed. America 1.0, produced the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and Dred Scott, and at the close of the Civil War, was punctuated by the assassination of President Lincoln. 150 years after the passage of Lincoln’s Homestead Act, America 1.0 has never fully overcome it’s original sin, it’s original design flaw, which has led to so much global disharmony, and contributed, on some level, to 911. At the dawn of the 21st century, working with America 1.0 is like working with a dull blade. Nobody works harder than Americans, but in solving Manhattan Project level questions, America 1.0 is no longer getting it done because the tool has dulled and is no longer up to the task. What to do?

Here’s the little that I am able to contribute to your pot today: if you are serious about getting it done, please invite my father, Norman G. Kurland, another stalwart of the “greatest generation,” to break bread with you. Please seriously consider what my father can contribute to the pot. Nobody that I am aware of has the unique combination of knowledge, skills, and experience that you are seeking. My father holds the key, or to stay metaphorically consistent, the code, needed to unleash a Second American Revolution along lines of design science principles of economic and social justice, a package of legislation known as the Industrial Homestead Act, which is buried on the desks of countless gatekeepers in Washington, who are preventing serious servant-leaders like yourself from getting the message, just like his message was buried on the desks of gatekeepers 40 years ago before he arranged for the historic meeting of "greatest generation" stalwarts Louis O. Kelso and Senator Russell Long. Whoever applies the design principles articulated therein can leave as proud a legacy as America’s founders.

Are you that guy?


Daniel Kurland

Friday, August 2, 2013

Being Real

Tonight I watched the movie Silver Linings rather than go to the gym. The exploration of the Pat's mental illness, wrapped up in family dysfunction, both genetically and culturally rooted, and his gradually coming to grips with a developing relationship with a young widow, Tiffany, which conflicts with a crazy obsession with his ex-wife, a teacher, who had cheated on him, and put a restraining order on him after he caught her in the shower with a tenured teacher, who he then nearly beat to death, which landed him in a mental institution, had me belly laughing and feeling all emotional, all alone on the couch, with just Mabel, my sweet little schnauzer sleeping on the other couch, with Karen and Joe at Donna's beach house in Wilmington. While trying to heal himself in the mental institution, Pat adopted the motto, excelsior! which means ever upward, which developed into Pat's strategy of using the bitter pain of defeat as fuel to drive himself relentlessly to heal himself, without medication, which became how Pat thus found his silver lining, I can connect with this sentiment. When I shared the news of my hiring on Tuesday with my family, I heard a collective exhale, from Wilmington to San Francisco, as the pain of loved ones, who have observed worriedly as I wandered in uncertainty for the past 10 years, frustrated by a profession that was not welcoming me as I was, was swept away by the current of what I have become, somebody with an important role, somebody with a future, somebody that others have plans for, somebody validated as an important contributor, somebody so blessed.

Nobody fully trusted that I was reading Dr. P correctly, that his recommendation that I take a vacation and make arrangements to attend my Obachan's 100th birthday party in San Francisco, was his way of telling me that the decision to hire me had been made after the end of my audition, during which a class which during the previous year had a 48% pass rate on their state tests had an over 90% rate, and his hints that everything else was a formality. Even I was harboring some doubts, which surfaced whenever I dipped into my retirement, borrowed, shifted debt around to pay the bills, and surprised even myself in my ability to remain afloat. Whenever I came home with a new gadget, Karen would wonder out loud and sigh, "I don't get it. Where's the money coming from?"

Everyone was telling me to  submit applications and try to set up interviews, so I did so diligently, but without panic, as anxiety rose around me like magma, with July ending without a single response. Given my utter lack of control over circumstance, over the summer I have reflected on the concept of Gaman, the ability to creatively redirect difficult circumstances in the construction of beautiful products, and used my time to read about Socrates, Odysseus, St. Augustine, Aeneas, George Washington, plus Jan Morrills fictional characters, Sachi, Nobu, and Terrance, and studied differences between dominant and dominated cultures, while building shelving, organizing my shop, cutting bushes, driving Joe back and forth to baseball camp, and responding to self-reflection questions others posed to me.

While no man is an island, and I have been reminded of the impact that my lack of a clear future has had on everybody around me, while none of this would have been possible without the support of family, on many legs of this journey, over the past 10 years, I have experienced several moments of walking alone, just me and the dog. Had I not tapped into the many examples of stoicism, which I came to rely on as personal guides from across the vast seas of time, distance, and cultures, my manhood could have easily been crushed and I would have not been able to contribute to the young, who are bombarded by messages of fear and disability. As a special education teacher, I am a living example of Jim Rohn's declaration that our futures are not determined by circumstance, but rather what we do about it.